Backpack functions like an organ, adapting to changes continuously.
Inspiration from Nature
Holothuria can make its skin highly flexible or sheerly stiff by creating pressure points in it using body fluids.
Despite tremendous automation in modern warfare, personal luggage remains to be an inevitable load for soldiers to bear. One would assume that military technology used in a backpack is more advanced than civilian technology but it isn’t the case. All military backpacks are based on the same old stitch-fabric technique. Recently, the US army deployed robotic beasts of burden. But the quadrupeds come with their advantages as well as disadvantages. And they cannot fully replace the need for a handy backpack on the battlefield. Main problems with the existing design are:
1. The backpack needs to be worn on and taken which creates hindrance and consumes critical seconds.
2. The stiffness in its design is inversely related to the stretch. It surely adds to the structural integrity but limits internal spatial and organizational possibilities.
A military backpack needs to be designed which can adjust its form and functions to meet soldier’s needs without requiring him/her to put any thought to it. It should work like an extended muscle that is capable of performing reflex action.
The core restricting factor in the design possibilities of a backpack is the Flexibility-Stiffness relationship of its manufacturing material. The two variables complement each other structurally but limit the overall organization spatially. After going through mind-boggling skeletal systems and skin structures in Nature, a most distinct skin technology is found in marine life. A sea cucumber (Holothuria) has developed skin tissues that can acquire a range of plasticity between sheerly stiff and highly flexible. Seawater and body fluids are used to control different pressure points of the skin. But at a deeper molecular level, a complex functional re-organization takes place. It is a classic example of complex adaptive systems and guides us to re-invent a military backpack.
An immense amount of research has gone into developing and encoding smart materials that change their stiffness and strength. Microfibers impregnated with Carbon materials, smart fabric sensors, graphene, and experiments of twisting conductive fibers with normal fibers of fabric help in designing a backpack that does not need to be stitched at all. Once, tension-compression elements become inseparable, new design possibilities emerge.
A backpack is woven seamlessly with smart fibers (28) which can change their stiffness-stretch factor in relation to body posture and objects inside. Fabric is laced with memory alloy strings capable of molecular-level functional reorganization (23, 24). Such re-organization takes its cues from the weight of the bag (15, 32), geometries of the objects inside (21), the stamina of the soldier (25), body frame and movement of the soldier (26, 31) and designated pressure points and gestures of a hand (10, 17-20).
The following are some useful resources from the design process of this nature gadget.
Row1Column1: Closeup of Sea Cucumber
Row1Column2: Closeup of the Texture on Sea Cucumber
Row1Column3: Fibre Changes Color when Stretched
Row1Column4: Wearable Electronics and Smart Textiles
Row2Column1: Graphene as Smart Material
Row2Column2: Schematic of Conductive Fibre Twisted with the Normal Fibre
Row2Column3: Microfibre Impregnated with Different Carbon Materials
Row2Column4: Smart Fabric Sensors and eTextile Technologies
Row3Column1: U.S. Military Surplus Pack With Frame
Row3Column2: Guide to Military Backpacks
Row3Column3: Technopicnic by Atelier Teratoma
Row3Column4: Prism Concept Backpack
Row4Column1: Lijmback Backpack
Row4Column2: Meiosis Backpack
Row4Column3: AMPL Smart Backpack
Row4Column4: Anti-theft Back